The Patient Voice Project Awarded Major Project Grant
Friday, March 14, 2008
The University of Iowa Arts Share program's Patient Voice Project is one of eight initiatives in the United States and Canada to receive a 2008 grant from the Johnson & Johnson/Society for the Arts in Healthcare partnership. The Patient Voice Project offers creative writing classes to chronically-ill hospital patients. The $40,000 grant will support the expansion of the project.
Workshop alumni Austin Bunn (MFA 2006) and April Kopp (MFA 2006) were graduate students in the Writers' Workshop when they first implemented the project in Spring 2005. Austin Bunn currently directs the Patient Voice Project and recruits Workshop graduate student to lead the writing classes.
The classes are conducted in both one-on-one and group sessions and are intended for all age ranges and ability levels. Writing exercises are illness-specific personal narratives or otherwise, depending on the interests of the patients. They emphasize the personal, explore areas of the patient's experience, and are tailored to the individual patient.
"Often, the chronically ill are the bearers of a 'broken story,' one that has a clear beginning followed by an ocean of middle with little sense of closure or personal choice," Bunn recently explained. "The premise of this project is to bring our training at the Writers' Workshop to bear on the challenge of studying and repairing this broken story.
"I know about the 'broken story' from personal experience. As a kid, I was a patient at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and after two surgeries there I hungered to make sense of the experience. But no one I knew, from my parents to friends, was able to listen to a story that I was, in truth, incapable of telling. Now, I feel like the 'Patient Voice' is a great way to see how writing can actually help people.
"This is not distraction therapy," he stresses. "Actually, it's the opposite. It brings intense focus on their experience with illness, and their experience as patients."